ROME – Father Daniele Gandini, pastor of the small parish that was home to an entire family killed in Sunday’s cable car accident in northern Italy, has said forgiveness for those at fault is the only way to make it through the tragedy.

In a May 27 letter published in Italian newspaper Il Giornale, Gandini said “a guilty mistake” caused the incident, which claimed 14 lives when a cable car plummeted down the side of Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy Sunday morning.

Three of the passengers were children – one of whom died at the scene, and another died at a hospital after being transferred for treatment. The lone survivor of the tragedy is a 5-year-old Israeli citizen living in Italy named Eitan, who is awake but remains in critical but stable condition at a hospital in Turin.

“Italian justice will take its course, and we as a community in this difficult moment must be close to the families of the victims, but also to those who have certainly made a mistake and must be redeemed,” he said, referring to the arrest of three individuals in relation to the accident.

Those arrested include the owner of the Ferrovie Mottorane cable car company, Luigi Nerini, manager Enrico Perocchio, and head of service Gabriele Tardini, who were taken into custody early Wednesday and are charged with disactivating the automatic brake system after several incidents in which the car stalled since it reopened a month ago.

The car involved in Sunday’s tragedy had stopped on several previous occasions in the weeks leading up to the incident, including an instance in which passengers inside made an emergency call for help.

The decision to disactivate the emergency break was apparently meant to stop the cars from stalling, meaning there was no fallback when the towing cable snapped. An investigation into why the towing cable broke in the first place is ongoing.

Three of the fatalities all belong to one family: Vittorio Zorloni, Elisabetta Personini, and their 9-year-old son Mattia, who were parishioners at Gandini’s parish of San Maurizio in the Italian town of Vedano Olona.

Gandini will celebrate the funeral of all three at the parish on Friday afternoon. Due to ongoing restrictions on public gatherings related to COVID-19, only 120 people will be able to attend the Mass, which is also being livestreamed so that people around the country who are mourning the incident can participate.

In his letter, Gandini said that as a community, “we feel close to those who are suffering because of the loss of these innocent brothers and sisters, and we pray for them.”

In addition to the deceased, he also urged faithful to pray for those responsible for the tragedy, saying “these are tragic moments for their consciences.”

“Of course, we all have to work so that the beautiful custom of our tradition which speaks of a job well done, with seriousness and commitment, never fails,” he said, noting that all too often, including Sunday’s accident, “we are slaves of the ‘logic of profit,’ which in the long run only leads to self-destruction.”

Gandini urged citizens not to be discouraged by the incident, which happened on the first day that Italy had reopened tourist activities following a strict coronavirus lockdown.

“Anger and indignation are human feelings that are more than understandable, in the face of a tragedy like this, with fourteen innocent victims. At this moment anger prevails and it is right and understandable that this is so,” he said, but insisted that “without forgiveness, you cannot live.”

“With the prevalence in the community and in single individuals of anger alone, forever, we cannot live, we remain blocked and do harm to ourselves,” he said, adding that only forgiveness “is capable of healing the heart” as time passes.

Pope Francis also conveyed his sorrow over the incident in a telegram sent to the Bishop of Novara, Giulio Brambilla, saying he was praying for the victims, “who were immersed in the wonders of creation” when disaster struck.

He also offered prayers for Eithan, who is with an aunt and other family members during his recovery, and for the local community.

The parish of San Maurizio, the local school, and the municipal administration in Vedano Olona have organized a fundraiser to support family members of Zorloni, Personini, and son Mattia. A Facebook group has also been created, which is encouraging locals to place a lit candle in their windows until their funeral takes place.

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